- Mar 8, 2018
In terms of teams, we really looked at — are there studios where the team has stuck together? I personally believe that one of the most precious assets in all of the game industry is a game team that has been through things and has shipped games together and has been through multiple cycles, and also a team that’s been through some adversity. Maybe it’s one thing to have a game team — you know, I’m all for luck, and I’m all for having the first thing out of the gate be an amazing big hit. But I think you learn a lot by dealing with adversity, and the fact that a game team can make it through multiple generations of hardware can stick together. What that tells me is that they really orient around what they’re building, and that they’re more focused internally on what they’re making than a lot of the noise that can exist in our in our industry. So that’s where the teams come in.
Then with ideas, really we tried to look at studios that have a creative process, that we know that they have a process for making multiple ideas. Again, I am all for the dream of “the first game that I ever made is a giant hit” — you know, you hit it big the first time, I love that. But at the same time, somebody like Tim Schafer at Double Fine, he clearly has a creative process. Tim has made many games. I think he’s got many more games in him. And our goal, hopefully, is that if we can remove the stress and the pressure of constantly having to go out and find a publisher and that next source of funding, that Tim can relax a little bit, and whatever game has always been floating around in the back of his head that he would want to make, that we empower him to make that.
I look at our studio in Montreal at Compulsion Games, what they did with Contrast and what they did with We Happy Few, and now I’ve got visibility into how the new game that they’re working on is coming together, that they’ve got a process. And I trust that over time, they’re going to have a steady output of new stuff, and it wasn’t just that they got lucky. And, again, I’m all for luck. But we’re looking to really build a steady stream of content, and that’s what we indexed on with these studios.
So, the people — people that we knew and we’ve worked with before; teams — teams that have stuck together, and have been through some good times and some adverse times; and then, ideas — in terms of a steady flow of new things that we could bring to our players.
You’ve said your goal is to allow each of the acquired studios to keep their company culture. But that seems like it would pose a management challenge for you and for Microsoft, because you’re going to be managing all these teams with these very different cultures and possibly very different workflows, right?
Yeah. Well, first and foremost, it’s great insight that you’ve got there on the management. We are very lucky that each of these studios has very seasoned, tenured, professional studio managers. So, in no case do they need my help on how to run their studio day-to-day. Feargus [Urquhart] has been running Obsidian for quite a while. Brian Fargo [of inXile Entertainment], obviously, very tenured. When you think about everything that Ninja Theory has been through with Nina [Kristensen] — probably the last thing they need my help doing is running their studio day-to-day, right? So then, to your question, it becomes what do we do to try to add value? We try to err on the side of caution there. We don’t want to add any structure, unless that structure adds value.
So I wanted to ask you a little bit about The Initiative, and what the goal is there. What was the philosophy behind opening a new studio, as opposed to another acquisition, and what’s the state of that studio?
Well, if you go back to the “people, teams, and ideas” thing, we are very fortunate to have some pretty big franchises. We’ve got things like Halo and Minecraft and Forza, Gears of War, Age of Empires, Flight Sim. In many cases, these are franchises that are a decade or more established, which is fantastic. A big franchise like that comes with its own things that you can do. There’s a lot of room within a big world to innovate on its own. But it’s a separate thing when you think about how you manage that production. And then we’ve got some of the studios that we’ve acquired that came with their own culture. And when we think about — how are we going to keep ourselves from sitting still, and how are we going to kind of mix things up a little bit?
We had a unique opportunity with The Initiative that Darrell Gallagher, who’s obviously had a lot of success in the industry, became available. And we thought, where can we build the studio, which we haven’t done in a while? And how would this work? And what does it mean to go create a new studio from ground zero, where we’re going to bring in people very deliberately around a product idea? And what does it mean to build a studio in a location that we really haven’t had a presence? I think you’ve seen some of the hires that Darryl’s made, where there’s just a lot of activity in that area where we can hire really great talent. We decided, let’s try something new. We’ve got these big franchises. They sort of have their own way of doing something. We acquired some studios that came with their own culture. How do we start something from ground zero?
I don’t want to get into too much, particularly with our showcase coming up, in terms of what The Initiative is doing. But I’ll just say that obviously we spent a lot of time talking with them and reviewing and seeing what’s going on. I think people are going to be pretty excited when we start to talk about what’s going on there.
Could you speak to whether you think the acquisitions are going to continue, or whether you’re going to take a pause on acquisitions, since you’ve just done a slate of them?
There’s no playbook or timeline pressure there. We’re in a great spot. Microsoft as a company has supported us very strongly in these acquisitions. I mean, to be able to go out and do everything from acquiring something as big as Minecraft to then being able to go out and acquire studios, which don’t come with sort of that pop culture awareness as a Minecraft, but still are important to what we’re doing. So I feel very supported there.
Phil [Spencer] has always been super supportive in terms of how this fits into Xbox. I think it’s more a case of, if we felt that there was a developer out there that we thought made sense to become more integrated and part of Xbox Game Studios, that we would be well-supported to go do that. Things happen with an ebb and flow. Right now, we’re just very focused on supporting, making sure that we’re ready for the launch of the new console later in the year.
One last question about finding success on Game Pass. I’m just curious what the conversations have been like with some of the studios that you’ve acquired, who say, “Hey, maybe this is most appropriate as a Game Pass game.” Do they feel more empowered or enabled to make stuff that’s smaller, more experimental?
Yeah, it’s a great question, and we’ve had a lot of conversations about this. I don’t mean this to be at all sarcastic, but it’ll frame so the way I think about it, which is — I don’t know what a “Game Pass game” is. Because right now I can go look at the things that are being played the most inside Game Pass, and it ranges from everything from Gears 5 to Human: Fall Flat. And I love that. One of the things that folks have said to me: “What makes a good Game Pass game?” I come back and say, to me, that’s a little bit like saying, “Go write me a song for Spotify.” [laughs]
I know that it seems a little broad, but I really stick more to, “Go make a good game.” And if you make a good game, we’ll figure out the best place for it. Like, Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves was designed — it started production before Game Pass really even existed. But it was a game designed to be about community, and it just so happened that as Sea of Thieves was the first first-party game to go day-and-date into Game Pass, that that intersection of what it was about, which was community, was a great match-up. But we didn’t set out ahead of time to say, “Go design Sea of Thieves to be this launch title for Game Pass.” It’s just that Sea of Thieves is a great game.
Game teams — I love them, because they will always try to seek the path to success and they always want to ask a bunch of questions, like, “Tell me what makes a great Game Pass game.” And I say, “I don’t know, I can’t tell you. So you got to go make a good game.” And I think things that make a good game are interesting worlds, new characters, new things to do, things that you can build a community around. You do those. We’ve seen great success with Minecraft inside Game Pass. I might not have predicted that. Because you could say, “Wow, everybody on the planet’s already got Minecraft.” Yet it’s got a whole new community of players that’s come up inside Game Pass.
So when teams start getting down that line of thought, I just say, “Time out. Please, just go make a great game.” And I guarantee that if you make a good game, we can adjust and steer in the last few months and figure out what the best thing for this is. But I would never want somebody using the distribution platform as the way to think about game design.
I don’t mean this to be at all sarcastic, but it’ll frame so the way I think about it, which is — I don’t know what a “Game Pass game” is.
https://www.polygon.com/interviews/2020/7/13/21320551/xbox-game-studios-head-matt-booty-interview-double-fine-obsidianThe article has been removed but for now you can still read it in MSN.
Looks like its still on MSN.